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Translation sociology and social capital in rural development initiatives. A case study from the Italian Alps

Magnani, Natalia, Struffi, Lauro
Journal of rural studies 2009 v.25 no.2 pp. 231-238
rural development, rural sociology, sustainable agriculture, farmers, social behavior, case studies, agricultural research, participation, social change, agricultural programs and projects, social capital, Italy
This article analyses the results of a European 'research and demonstration' project promoting multifunctional and sustainable agriculture in Alpine regions through a participatory approach. It focuses in particular on initiatives undertaken by a local farmers group in the Italian Alpine area of Val di Sole, the purpose being to draw attention to the role of social dynamics in fostering sustainable rural development in a participatory context. In order to accomplish this objective, two key sociological approaches to the study of rural development, namely social capital and the sociology of translation, are considered. The former focuses on the relational capital available to a group of actors and which can be mobilised in a development initiative. The latter views change in social practices as resulting from a cycle of phases where the problem, its solution, and the identity of the actors are constantly transformed and negotiated. By contrasting the two theoretical approaches in relation to the outcomes of two specific actions implemented in the valley we suggest that the sociology of translation offers a more effective tool with which to capture the complexity of social dynamics involved in a rural development initiative.